A "well-dressed, athletically built" couple who told Fairfax County police they were unemployed Argentine acrobats have been linked to the shoplifting of $40,000 in furs, crystal and other expensive merchandise at fashionable area stores, police said yesterday.

The couple, charged with grand larceny in the theft of an $8,500 fur coat from a Garfinckel's store in Northern Virginia last week, were freed after an unidentified woman with a wad of bills paid their $10,000 bond in cash, police said.

Investigators later searched a car with New York license plates parked at the Seven Corners shopping center and found leather, suede and fur coats, lead crystal, oriental figures and statues taken from Bloomingdale's, Neiman-Marcus, Saks, Lord & Taylor and Garfinckel's stores in Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Fairfax investigator Mike Cox said the car was traced to a small car leasing company in Yonkers, N.Y., where it had been leased under the name of Nestor Rodriguez, the same name given by one of the suspects police had taken into custody.

Police said additional charges are pending as a result of the discovery.

Rodriguez and his wife, Beatrice, 24, who told police they lived at 1112 Parkway North in Yonkers, said they were out-of-work acrobats who performed with a small troupe in Argentina.

The couple was apprehended Thursday when they allegedly tried to leave the Garfinckel's store at Seven Corners with an $8,500 mink coat. On Friday night, Beatrice Rodriguez made a brief telephone call from the Fairfax jail, police spokesman Warren Carmichael said. Less than 30 minutes later, according to jail employes, a heavy-set woman in her 60s appeared at the bond desk.

The woman produced "wads" of fresh $20 bills "thick enough to choke a horse," Carmichael said.

"She had a thick Spanish accent and could barely speak English," recalled a Fairfax magistrate yesterday. "We really had a hard time understanding her. Then she starts dumping the money out, $10,000 worth."

The woman kept handing out money and asking, "Is that enough?" said another witness to the scene.

The woman, who identified herself only as Ms. Garcia, left with the Rodriguezes and none has been seen since.

All of the thefts, according to Cox, occurred within the last two weeks. Police could not say immediately which branches of the stores had been robbed.

A preliminary hearing has been set for Feb. 27 in Fairfax County General District Court.